Agenda and minutes

Venue: The Breckland Conference Centre, Anglia Room, Elizabeth House, Walpole Loke, Dereham, NR19 1EE

Contact: Democratic Services  01362 656870

No. Item


Minutes pdf icon PDF 187 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 26 January 2023.


Subject to the following amendment, the minutes of the meeting held on 26 January 2023 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.


Amendment: Page 13, paragraph 4, the word ‘explained’ should be changed to ‘stated’ and the sentence should read ‘Councillor Cowen stated that it was a fair comparison and analysis to make.’


Apologies and Substitutes

To receive apologies for absence and to note substitute Members in attendance.


Apologies were received from Cllr Brame, Cllr Eagle and Cllr Kybird. Cllr Askew was in attendance as substitute.


Chairman's Announcements (if any)




Urgent Business

To note whether the Chairman proposes to accept any item as urgent business pursuant to Section 100(B)(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972.





Declaration of Interests

The duties to register, disclose and not to participate for the entire consideration of the matter, in respect of any matter in which a Member has a disclosable pecuniary interest are set out in Chapter 7 of the Localism Act 2011.  Members are also required to withdraw from the meeting room as stated in the Standing Orders of this Council.






Non-Members wishing to address the Meeting

To note the names of any non-members or public speakers wishing to address the meeting.





Councillor Call for Action (Standing Item) pdf icon PDF 338 KB

To consider any references or updates.


(a)  The Environmental Services Manager, Sarah Simpson explained that at a

previous Overview & Scrutiny meeting, a Councillor Call for Action had been raised as many Members had received complaints from residents in 2022, about the grass cutting service provided across the Breckland area.


In September 2020 Breckland District Council (BDC) informed Norfolk County Council (NCC) that the grass cutting contract with Serco was due to end and NCC were asked if they wanted BDC to continue cutting grass on land owned by NCC. NCC advised BDC that NCC Highways were considering cost saving by reducing urban grass cutting to 4 times per year, and that this would go to public consultation. In February 2021 NCC Highways confirmed that this had been agreed and in April 2021 NCC advised that they wanted to reduce to 4 cuts per annum with a 20% reduction in cost. However, in July 2021 further information was received from NCC which advised that they no longer required BDC to cut any NCC owned grassed areas from 1April 2022 and in October 2021 Serco completed the last cut on behalf of NCC and NCC grass cutting was removed from the Serco contract in January 2022.


BDC felt that this change may cause concern for residents and issued a Member briefing, provided Town & Parish Councils with information about the changes, which had included maps showing maintenance responsibilities, and the Breckland Council Contact Centre and Serco Call Centre had been briefed about the changes. A number of calls had been received when the changes commenced, however, this quickly reduced to no queries.


Current grass cutting arrangements were explained as follows:


·         Breckland Council


o   Cut for amenity purposes.

o   Cut regularly throughout the growing season.

o   Generally cut fortnightly, dependent upon growth.


·         Norfolk County Council


o   Cut for safety reasons.

o   Cut between May and September.

o   Urban areas – verges cut four times per year.

o   Rural areas – verges between villages and towns were cut twice a year.


How to report an issue with grass cutting:


·         For grass Breckland Council were responsible for:


·         For grass Norfolk County Council were responsible for:


Cllr Nairn felt that in his experience in rural areas, the reduced cuts per year were insufficient and that it had been cut so short that it was damaging the ecology of the area. He also had concerns over the deep grips cut out of the verges, these could not be seen by drivers, particularly in rural areas, once the grass had grown and on narrower roads, it was causing damage to cars when drivers pulled off the road to allow other road users to pass.


Cllr Wilkinson felt that there was a health issue when grass was left to grow longer as dog mess, not picked up by owners, could not be clearly seen.


Cllr Birt asked how the public would know whose responsibility an area was in order to know who to contact. There was no indication on the mapping facility as  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20/23


Queens Square Parking Trial - Attleborough pdf icon PDF 206 KB

To receive a report from Cllr Hewett, Executive Member for Property, Projects, and Procurement.


The Executive Member for Property, Projects and Procurement, Cllr Hewett explained that the contents of the Queens Square Car Parking Trial report contained information on the history behind the decisions to deliver time-limited enforcement, how the Council had operated the enforcement trial, how it had gathered feedback during the trial to inform the decision to make the enforcement permanent, and the follow-on actions resulting from this decision. He stated that this report demonstrated direct activity to support the Council’s Corporate Plan, specifically the Thriving Places objective, where the Council had played a role in supporting Town Centres by assisting the communities with employment and retail services and that this was a key pillar of the work being undertaken.


The initial request for the trial came from Attleborough Town Council and thereafter, it had been developed in a collaborative approach with Breckland Council. The Town Council understood the needs of their residents and understood how changing car parking habits could assist their town to recover and develop over the years to come. Breckland Council had previous experience with the Swaffham Town Council parking scheme and could use that experience to assist Attleborough Town Council to move forward, although the reasons and approach had been different. The trial had been undertaken in a controlled and considered way and the report showed extensive consultation at various points of the process.


Cllr Birt noted that the report stated that 58% supported the short-stay parking offer and felt that this was a low percentage, it also stated that 46% supported the increased parking availability, and said that these figures were inconclusive. He also said that the report stated that each space was used on average three times during the day, if the full three hours were used, which he felt was under utilised for a short stay car park and did not show the full picture which demonstrated that it was not the success it was stated to be and maybe alternative options should have been considered.


The Assistant Director Property & Infrastructure, Ralph Burton said that the data contained within the report was exactly as it came forward which did show a majority wanting the short stay facility. The quantitative and qualitative responses were blended together to see what people actually wanted and he felt that BDC had considered all the responses carefully which had led to the decision and outcome contained in the report.


Cllr Wickerson said that car parking changes in Swaffham had been a success but that they were at an advantage as they had a free long term stay car park which offered residents a choice and said that it was important to provide an alternative to residents who needed a longer stay.


Cllr Turner suggested that residents were not keen on being dictated to about change and that consultation, communication and joint involvement on decision making was the key to move things forward and felt that Breckland Council were front runners in demonstrating this attribute by involving residents and encouraging  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21/23


Disabled Facilities Grants pdf icon PDF 3 MB

To receive a presentation from the Housing Manager, Gill Duffy and the Private Sector Housing Manager, Ellen Spencer.


The Executive Member for Housing and Homelessness, Cllr Gordon Bambridge, explained that Breckland Council’s role in the Disabled Facilities Grant process was to administer the grant, working with Norfolk County Council (NCC), and contractors to ensure that the funding went where it was needed most. This service enabled residents to live independently for longer which improved quality of life and in turn, saved the wider health and social care system, millions of pounds. The present need for this service was well in excess of current funding and Breckland Council were continually applying pressure on local government and NCC to lever in additional funding. So far they had been successful in obtaining funding for the handy persons scheme through the Breckland Health and Well-being Partnership and would continue to apply pressure to obtain further funding for this vital service.


The Private Sector Housing Manager, Ellen Spencer explained the background of the Disabled Facilities Grants Scheme (DFGs) and why it was important to residents within the community. The scheme helped recipients of a grant to avoid a care home placement by four years plus. Home assessment and modification for people at substantial risk of a fall offered a return on investment of £3.17 to every pound spent and a social return on investment of £7.34 to every pound spent. In later life, modifications made to the home could reduce difficulties with activities of daily living by 75%. A holistic home intervention for lower income adults who experienced difficulties with several areas of daily living, which combined reablement support, repairs and home adaptations, found that participants’ physical functioning increased by 49%, depressive symptoms improved in 53% of cases and difficulty with activities of daily living reduced by 75%.


NCC, through the Better Care Fund, administered the funding and Breckland Council received just over 1.3m per year.


Breckland Council’s IHAT (Integrated Housing Adaptations Team):


·         Pre-COVID: working arrangement with another local authority to deliver DFG works for Breckland District Council.

·         Backlog of referrals built up during COVID.

·         April 2021 Breckland team formed.

·         Tender process to recruit 8 new contractors.

·         2021/2022 and early 2022/2023 caught up with backlog.

·         By June 2022 had spent and committed all of carry-over from 2021/2022 and most of 2022/2023 budget.

·         Kept back some funding for P1+ cases. (Emergencies).


The funding for 2023/2024 would not be enough for the cases that were waiting, and in addition to that, the new cases throughout the year.


Cllr Bambridge said that the team were doing a brilliant job and had caught up with the back log and that it had been a success however, the issue was that this project was insufficiently funded and it was a constant appeal to local government to achieve the funds that were required to meet residents’ needs.


Cllr Wickerson applauded the work done by the team with very limited means and asked when additional funding would be available and when they would know how much it would be. Cllr Bambridge said that at this time the amount or when  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22/23


Nutrient Neutrality pdf icon PDF 273 KB

To receive a report and presentation from the Director of Planning and Building Control, Simon Wood.

Additional documents:


The Director of Planning and Building Control, Simon Wood talked Members through the report and presentation on Nutrient Neutrality explaining the background and how it had evolved to date, stating that this was a complex, ever changing issue where Local Planning Authorities were now required to consider the impact of nutrient enrichment before planning permission could be granted.


On 16 March 2022 Natural England issued new guidance to local planning authorities concerning nutrient enrichment and the role it must play in preventing further adverse impacts to protected wetland habitats.


This guidance covered the catchment areas of the River Wensum Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and the Broads SAC and RAMSAR, wetlands of international importance designated under the Ramsar Convention. This affected all local authorities in Norfolk.


UK rivers were in a critical condition with only 14% of ‘good’ ecological status with nutrient pollution caused by:


·         Excess fertiliser from agriculture washed out into the soil and into the watercourses.

·         Overloaded sewage works discharge untreated effluent directly into rivers.

·         New Development and run off from urban development.


The new guidance had stalled approximately one thousand planning applications for dwellings and had an impact on affordable housing with 333 dwellings affected now and within 18 months it was predicted to be 700. Temporary accommodation costs the Council for every 100 less affordable houses, approximately £1m per year.


There had been a response in terms of legislation from Central Government with the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which required Water Companies to upgrade waste water treatment works (WwTWs) by 2030. Natural England (NE) had also been tasked with finding a solution to this issue and given £20m in funding to support this.


The Norfolk district had formed a Nutrient Neutrality (NN) Group to establish a way forward to enable planning permissions to be granted with the new guidance in place. One of the first pieces of work undertaken was funded by grants from Central Government for Royal Haskoning to bring together an evidence base that would establish the level of mitigation required across the affected districts in Norfolk. Out of this work it was anticipated that mitigation credits would cost each dwelling between £7,000 and £10,000 which would be paid by developers and ultimately funded by landowners or house purchases in terms of house prices.


In addition to the work carried out by Royal Haskoning, Breckland Council, in partnership with the Wendling Beck Environmental Project and the Nature Conservancy Council had commissioned a piece of work by Ricardo Consulting, experts in nutrients and mitigation.


Cllr Birt recognised the need for a speedy solution but had concerns over where the phosphates and the nitrates went. He felt that the credits seemed to have significant monetary value and asked about the legal weight being given to the credits and how long they would be tradeable for. He said that it needed to be open and transparent and asked if there were disputes, how these would be handled and asked how the removal of phosphates and nitrates  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23/23


Outside Body Feedback (Standing Item)

To receive an update from representatives on Outside Bodies.






Scrutiny Call-ins (Standing Item)

To note whether any decisions have been called-in for scrutiny.





Work Programme pdf icon PDF 215 KB

(a)          A copy of the Commission’s work programme is attached.  The Commission is asked to agree any additions, deletions or amendments to the programme as appropriate.


(b)        Member Issues:  In accordance with the Commission’s protocol for member leadership, which states that members of the Commission will take the lead in selecting topics for overview and scrutiny and in the questioning of witnesses, members are invited to put forward items for selection for future review.


A copy of the Key Decision Plan is attached for Members’ information.

Additional documents:


There were no additional items added to the work Programme at this meeting.


Next Meeting

To note the arrangements for the next meeting to be held on 8 June 2023 at 10am in the Anglia Room, The conference Suite, Elizabeth House, Walpole Loke, Dereham, NR19 1EE.



The arrangements for the next meeting scheduled for Thursday, 8 June 2023 at 10am in the Anglia Room, The Conference Suite, Elizabeth House, Walpole Loke, Dereham, NR19 1EE were noted.